Karl Marx in New York Daily Tribune

Russian Policy Against Turkey.— Chartism

Published: in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 3819, July 14, 1853. Reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 849, July 15, 1853;
Transcribed by: director@marx.org, November 16 1996;
HTML Mark-up: Andy Blunden;

London, Friday, July 1, 1853

Since the year 1815 the Great Powers of Europe have feared nothing so much as an infraction of the status quo. But any war between any two of those powers implies subversion of that status quo. That is the reason why Russia's encroachments in the East have been tolerated, and why she has never been asked for anything in return but to afford some pretext, however absurd, to the Western powers, for remaining neutral, and for being saved the necessity of interfering with Russian aggressions. Russia has all along been glorified for the forbearance and generosity of her "august master," who has not only condescended to cover the naked and shameful subserviency of Western Cabinets, but has displayed the magnanimity of devouring Turkey piece after piece, instead of swallowing it at a mouthful. Russian diplomacy has thus rested on the timidity of Western statesmen, and her diplomatic art has gradually sunk into so complete a mannerism, that you may trace the history of the present transactions almost literally in the annals of the past.

The hollowness of the new pretexts of Russia is apparent, after the Sultan [Abdul Mejid] has granted, in his new firman to the Patriarch of Constantinople [Germanos] more than the Czar himself had asked for -- so far as religion goes. Now was, perhaps, the "pacification of Greece" [1] a more solid pretext? When M. de Villèle, in order to tranquilize the apprehensions of the Sultan [Mahmud II], and to give a proof of the pure intentions of the Great Powers, proposed "that the allies ought above all things to conclude a Treaty by which the actual status quo of the Ottoman Empire should be guaranteed to it," the Russian Ambassador at Paris [K. O. Pozzo di Borgo] opposed this proposition to the utmost, affirming

"that Russia, in displaying generosity in her relations with the Porte, and in showing inappreciable respect for the wishes of her allies, [...] had been obliged, nevertheless, to reserve exclusively to herself to determine her own differences with the Divan; [...] that a general guarantee of the Ottoman Empire, independently of its being unusual and surprising, would wound the feelings of his master and the rights acquired by Russia, and the principles upon which they were founded."

Russia pretends now to occupy the Danubian principalities, without giving to the Porte the right of considering this step as a casus belli.

Russia pretended, in 1827, "to occupy Moldavia and Wallachia in the name of the three Powers."

While Russia proclaimed the following in her declaration of war of April 26, 1828:

"Her allies would always find her ready to concert her march with them, in execution of the Treaty of London [2], and ever anxious to aid in a work, which her religion and all the sentiments honorable to humanity recommended to her active solicitude, always disposed to profit by her actual position only for the purpose of accelerating the accomplishment of the Treaty of July 6th,"

while Russia announced in her manifesto, A. D. 1st October, 1829:

"Russia has remained constantly a stranger to every desire of conquest -- to every view of aggrandizement."

Her Ambassador at Paris was writing to Count Nesselrode.

"When the Imperial Cabinet examined the question, whether it had become expedient to take up arms against the Porte, [...] there might have existed some doubt about the urgency of this measure in the eyes of those who had not sufficiently reflected upon the effects of the sanguinary reforms, which the Chief of the Ottoman Empire has just executed with such tremendous violence. [...]

"The Emperor has put the Turkish system to the proof, and his Majesty has found it to possess a commencement of physical and moral organization which it hitherto had not. If this Sultan had been enabled to offer us a more determined and regular resistance, while he had scarcely assembled together the elements of his new plan of reform and ameliorations, how formidable should we have found him had he had time to give it more solidity. [...] Things being in this state, we must congratulate ourselves upon having attacked them before they became more dangerous for us, for delay would only have made our relative situation worse, and prepared us greater obstacles than those with which we meet."

Russia proposes now to make an aggressive step and then to talk about it. In 1829 Prince Lieven wrote to Count Nesselrode:

"We shall confine ourselves to generalities, for every circumstantial communication on a subject so delicate would draw down real dangers, and if once we discuss with our allies the articles of treaty with the Porte, we shall only content them when they will imagine that they have imposed upon us irreparable sacrifices. It is in the midst of our camp that peace must be signed and it is when it shall have been concluded that Europe must know its conditions. Remonstrances will then be too late and it will then patiently suffer what it can no longer prevent."

Russia has now for several months been delaying action under one presence or another, in order to maintain a state of things which, being neither war nor peace, is tolerable to herself, but ruinous to the Turks. She acted in precisely the same manner in the period we have alluded to. As Pozzo di Borgo said:

"It is our policy to see that nothing new happens during the next four months and I hope we shall accomplish it, because men in general prefer waiting; but the fifth must be fruitful in events."

The Czar, after having inflicted the greatest indignities on the Turkish Government, and notwithstanding that he now threatens to extort by force the most humiliating concessions, nevertheless raises a great cry about his "friendship for the Sultan Abdul Mejid" and his solicitude "for the preservation of the Ottoman Empire." On the Sultan he throws the "responsibility" of opposing his "just demands," of continuing to "wound his friendship and his feelings," of rejecting his "note," and of declining his "protectorate."

In 1828, when Pozzo di Borgo was interpellated by Charles X about the bad success of the Russian arms in the campaign of that year, he replied, that, not wishing to push the war à outrance without absolute necessity, the Emperor had hoped that the Sultan would have profited by his generosity, which experiment had now failed.

Shortly before commencing her present quarrel with the Porte Russia sought to bring about a general coalition of the Continental Powers against England, on the Refugee question, and having failed in that experiment, she attempted to bring about a coalition with England against France. Similarly, from 1826 to 1828, she intimidated Austria by the "ambitious projects of Prussia," doing simultaneously all that was in her power to swell the power and pretensions of Prussia, in order to enable her to balance Austria. In her present circular note she indicts Bonaparte as the only disturber of peace by his pretensions respecting the Holy Places [3]; but, at that time, in the language of Pozzo di Borgo, she attributed

"all the agitation that pervaded Europe to the agency of Prince Metternich, and tried to make the Duke of Wellington himself perceive that the deference which he would have to the Cabinet of Vienna would be a drawback to his influence with all the others, and to give such a turn to things that it would be no longer Russia that sought to compromise France with Great Britain, but Great Britain who had repudiated France, in order to join the Cabinet of Vienna."

Russia would now submit to a great humiliation if she retreated. That was identically her situation after the first unsuccessful campaign of 1828. What was then her supreme object? We answer in the words of her diplomatist:

"A second campaign is indispensable in order to acquire the superiority requisite for the success of the negotiation. [...] When this negotiation shall take place we must be in a state to dictate the conditions of it in a prompt and rapid manner.... With the power of doing more His Majesty would consent to demand less. [...] To obtain this superiority appears to me what ought to be the aim of all our efforts. This superiority has now become a condition of our political existence, such as we must establish [...] and maintain in the eyes of the world."

But does Russia not fear the common action of England and France? Certainly. In the Secret Memoirs on the Means possessed by Russia for breaking up the alliance between France and England, revealed during the reign of Louis Philippe, we are told:

"In the event of a war, in which England should coalesce with France, Russia indulges in no hope of success. unless that union [...] be broken up; so that at the least England should consent to remain neutral during the continental conflict."

The question is: Does Russia believe in a common action of England and France? We quote again from Pozzo di Borgo's dispatches:

"From the moment that the idea of the ruin of the Turkish Empire ceases to prevail, it is not probable that the British Government would risk a general war for the sake of exempting the Sultan from acceding to such or such condition, above all in the state in which things will be at the commencement of the approaching campaign, when everything will be as yet uncertain and undecided. These considerations would authorize the belief that we have no cause to fear an open rupture on the part of Great Britain; and that she will content herself with counseling the Porte to beg peace, and with lending the aid of the good offices in her power during the negotiation if it takes place, without going further, should the Sultan refuse or we persist."

And as to Nesselrode's opinion of the "good" Aberdeen, the Minister of 1828, and the Minister of 1853, it may be well to quote the following from a dispatch by Prince Lieven:

"Lord Aberdeen reiterated in his interview with me the assurance that at no period it had entered into the intentions of England to seek a quarrel with Russia -- that he feared that the position of the English Ministry was not well understood at St. Petersburg -- that he found himself in a delicate situation. Public opinion was always ready to burst forth against Russia. The British Government could not constantly brave it; and it would be dangerous to excite it on questions [...] that touched so nearly the national prejudices. On the other side we could reckon with entire confidence upon the [...] friendly dispositions of the English Ministry which struggled against them."

The only thing astonishing in the note of M. de Nesselrode, of June 11, is not "The insolent melange of professions refuted by acts, and threats veiled in declaimers," but the reception Russian diplomatical notes meet with for the first time in Europe, calling forth, instead of the habitual awe and admiration, blushes of shame at the past and disdainful laughter from the Western world at this insolent amalgamation of pretensions, finesse and real barbarism. Yet Nesselrode's circular note, and the "ultimatissimum" of June 16, are not a bit worse than the so much admired master-pieces of Pozzo di Borgo and Prince Lieven. Count Nesselrode was at their time, what he is now, the diplomatical head of Russia.

There is a facetious story told of two Persian naturalists who were examining a bear; the one who had never seen such an animal before, inquired whether that animal dropped its cubs alive or laid eggs; to which the other, who was better informed, replied: "That animal is capable of anything." The Russian bear is certainly capable of anything, so long as he knows the other animals he has to deal with to be capable of nothing.

En passant, I may mention the signal victory Russia has just won in Denmark, the Royal message having passed with a majority of 119 against 28, in the following terms:

"In agreement with the 4th paragraph of the Constitution d. d. June 5, 1849, the United Parliament, for its part, gives its consent to the arrangement by His Majesty of the succession to the whole Danish Monarchy in accordance with the Royal message respecting the succession of Oct. 4, 1852, renewed June 13, 1853."

[ Chartism ]

Strikes and combinations of workmen are proceeding rapidly, and to an unprecedented extent. I have now before me reports on the strikes of the factory hands of all descriptions at Stockport, of smiths, spinners, weavers, etc., at Manchester, of carpet-weavers at Kidderminster, of colliers at the Ringwood Collieries, near Bristol, of weavers and roomers at Blackburn, of roomers at Darwen, of the cabinet-makers at Boston, of the bleachers, finishers, dyers and power-loom weavers of Bolton and neighborhood, of the weavers of Barnsley, of the Spitalfields broad-silk weavers, of the lace makers of Nottingham, of all descriptions of workingmen throughout the Birmingham district, and in various other localities. Each mail brings new reports of strikes; the turn-out grows epidemic. Every one of the larger strikes, like those at Stockport, Liverpool, etc., necessarily generates a whole series of minor strikes, through great numbers of people being unable to carry out their resistance to the masters, unless they appeal to the support of their fellow-workmen in the Kingdom, and the latter, in order to assist them, asking in their turn for higher wages. Besides it becomes alike a point of honor and of interest for each locality not to isolate the efforts of their fellow-workmen by submitting to worse terms, and thus strikes in one locality are echoed by strikes in the remotest other localities. In some instances the demands for higher wages are only a settlement of long-standing arrears with the masters. So with the great Stockport strike.

In January, 1848, the mill-owners of the town made a general reduction of 10 per cent. from all descriptions of factory-workers' wages. This reduction was submitted to upon the condition that when trade revived the 10 per cent. was to be restored. Accordingly the work-people memorialized their employers, early in March, 1853, for the promised advance of 10 per cent.; and as they would not come to arrangements with them, upward of 30,000 hands struck. In the majority of instances, the factory-workmen affirmed distinctly their right to share in the prosperity of the country, and especially in the prosperity of their employers.

The distinctive feature of the present strikes is this, that they began in the lower ranks of unskilled labor (not factory labor) actually trained by the direct influence of emigration, according to various strata of artizans, till they reached at last the factory people of the great industrial centers of Great Britain; while at all former periods strikes originated regularly from the heads of the factory-workers, mechanics, spinners, &c., spreading thence to the lower classes of this great industrial hive, and reaching only in the last instance, to the artizans. This phenomenon is to be ascribed solely to emigration.

There exists a class of philanthropists, and even of socialists, who consider strikes as very mischievous to the interests of the "workingman himself," and whose great aim consists in finding out a method of securing permanent average wages. Besides, the fact of the industrial cyclus, with its various phases, putting every such average wages out of the question. I am, on the very contrary, convinced that the alternative rise and fall of wages, and the continual conflicts between masters and men resulting therefrom, are, in the present organization of industry, the indispensable means of holding up the spirit of the laboring classes, of combining them into one great association against the encroachments of the ruling class, and of preventing them from becoming apathetic, thoughtless, more or less well-fed instruments of production. In a state of society founded upon the antagonism of classes, if we want to prevent Slavery in fact as well as in name, we must accept war. In order to rightly appreciate the value of strikes and combinations, we must not allow ourselves to be blinded by the apparent insignificance of their economical results, but hold, above all things, in view their moral and political consequences. Without the great alternative phases of dullness, prosperity, over-excitement, crisis and distress, which modern industry traverses in periodically recurring cycles, with the up and down of wages resulting from them, as with the constant warfare between masters and men closely corresponding with those variations in wages and profits, the working-classes of Great Britain, and of all Europe, would be a heart-broken, a weak-minded, a worn-out, unresisting mass, whose self-emancipation would prove as impossible as that of the slaves of Ancient Greece and Rome. We must not forget that strikes and combinations among the serfs were the hot-beds of the mediaeval communes, and that those communes have been in their turn, the source of life of the now ruling bourgeoisie.

I observed in one of my last letters, of what importance the present labor-crisis must turn out to the Chartist movement in England, which anticipation I now find realized by the results obtained in the first two weeks of the reopened campaign by Ernest Jones, the Chartist leader. The first great open-air meeting was, as you know, to be held on the mountain of Blackstone-Edge. On the 19th ult., the Lancashire and Yorkshire delegates of the respective Chartist localities congregated there, constituting themselves as Delegate-Council Ernest Jones's petition for the Charter was unanimously adopted as that proposed to emanate from the meetings in the two counties, and the presentation of the Lancashire and Yorkshire petitions was voted to be entrusted to Mr. Apsley Pellatt, M. P. for Southwark, who had agreed to undertake the presentation of all Chartist petitions. As to the general meeting, the most sanguine minds did not anticipate its possibility, the weather being terrific, the storm increasing hourly in violence and the rain pouring without intermission. At first there appeared only a few scattered groups climbing up the hill, but soon larger bodies came into sight, and from an eminence that overlooked the surrounding valleys, thin but steady streams of people could be viewed as far as the eye could carry, through the base pelting of the rain, coming upward along the roads and footpaths leading from the surrounding country. By the time at which the meeting was announced to commence, upward of 3,000 people had met on the spot, far removed from any village or habitation, and during the long speeches, the meeting, notwithstanding the most violent deluge of rain, remained steadfast on the ground

Mr. Edward Hooson's resolution: "That the social grievances of the working classes of the country are the result of class-legislation, and that the only remedy for such class-legislation is the adoption of the people's Charter," was supported by Mr. Gammage, of the Chartist Executive, [4] and Mr. Ernest Jones, from whose speeches I give some extracts.

"The resolution which has been moved attributed the people's [...] grievances to class-legislation. He thought that no man who had watched the course of events could disagree with that statement. The House of Commons, so called, had turned a deaf ear to all their complaints, and when the wail of misery had arisen from the people, it had been mocked and derided by the men who assumed to be the representatives of the nation, and if by any singular chance the voice of the people found an echo in that House, it was always drowned in the clamor of the murderous majority of our class-legislators. [Loud applause.] The House of Commons not only refused to do justice to the people, but it even refused to inquire into their social condition. They would all recollect that sometime ago, Mr. Slaney had introduced into the House a motion for the appointment of a standing commission. whose business it should be to inquire into that condition and suggest measures of relief -- but such was the determination of the House to evade the question, that on the introduction of the motion, only twenty-six members were present, and the House was counted out. [Loud cries of shame, shame.] And on the reintroduction of that motion, so far from Mr. Slaney being successful, he (Mr. Gammage) believed that out of 656 honorable men, but 19 were present even to enter on a discussion of the question. [...] When he told them what was the actual condition of the people, he thought they would agree with him, that there existed abundant reasons for inquiry. They were told by political economists that the annual production of this country was £820,000,000. Assuming that there were in the United Kingdom 5,000,000 of working families, and that such families received an average income of fifteen shillings per week, which he believed was a very high average compared with what they actually received [cries of "a great deal too high"], supposing them, however, to average this amount, they received out of their enormous annual production a miserable one hundred and ninety-five millions, -- [cries of shame]. -- and all the rest went into the pockets of idle landlords, usurers and the capitalist class generally.... Did they require a proof that these men were robbers? [...] They were not the worst of thieves who were confined within the walls of our prisons; the greatest and cleverest of thieves were those who robbed by the power of laws made by themselves, and these large robberies were the cause of all the smaller ones that were transacted throughout the country.... Mr. Gammage then entered into an analysis of the House of Commons, proving [...] that from the classes to which the members of that House belonged, and the classes which they represented, it was impossible that there should exist the smallest sympathy between them and the working millions. In conclusion, said the speaker, the people must become acquainted with their Social Rights."

Mr. Ernest Jones said:

"To-day we proclaim that the Charter shall be law. [Loud cheers.] I ask you how to reengage in this great movement, because I know that the time has arrived for so doing, and that the game is in your hand, and because I am anxious that you should not let the opportunity go by. Brisk trade and emigration have given you a momentary power, and upon how you use that power depends your future position. If you use it only for the objects of the present, you will break down when the circumstances of the present cease. But if you use it, not only to strengthen your present position, but to secure your future one, you will triumph over all your enemies. If brisk trade and emigration give you power, that power must cease when brisk trade and emigration cease, and unless you secure yourself in the interval, you will be more slaves than ever. [Hear, hear.] But the very sources that cause your strength now will cause your weakness before long. The emigration that makes your labor scarce, will make soon your employment scarcer.... The commercial reaction will set in, and now I ask you, how are you preparing to meet it? [...] You are engaged in a noble labor movement for short time and high wages, and you are practically carrying it through to some extent, [...] but mark! you are not carrying it through Parliament. Mark! the game of the employer is this -- amuse them with some concessions, but yield to them no law. Don't pass a Wages bill in Parliament, but concede some of its provisions in the factory. [Hear.] The wages slave will then say, "Never mind a political organization for a Ten Hours bill or a Wages measure -- we've got it, ay, ourselves without Parliament." Yes, but can you keep it without Parliament? What gave it you? Brisk trade. What will take it from you? Dull trade. [...] Your employers know this. [...] Therefore, they shorten your hours of work or raise your wages, or remit their stoppages, in hopes that you will forego the political organization for these measures. [Cheers.] They shorten the hours of work, well knowing that soon they will run their mills short time -- they raise your wages, well knowing that soon they will give thousands of you no wages at all. But they tell you also -- the midland manufacturers -- that, even if the laws were passed, this would only force them to seek other means of robbing you -- that was the plain meaning of their words. So that in the first place, you can't get the acts passed, because you have not got a People's Parliament. In the second place, if they were passed, they tell you that they would circumvent them. [Loud cries of "hear."] Now, I ask you, how are you preparing for the future? How are you using the vast strength you momentarily possess? [...] That [...] you will be powerless, unless you prepare now -- you will lose all you may have gained; and we are here to-day to show you how to keep it and get more. [...] Some people fancy a Chartist organization would interfere with the Labor movement. Good Heaven! it is the very thing to make it successful.... The employed cannot do without the employer unless he can employ himself. The employed can never employ himself, unless he can command the means of work -- land, credit and machinery. He can never command these, unless he breaks down the landed, moneyed and mercantile monopolies, and these he cannot subvert except by wielding sovereign power. Why do you seek a Ten Hours bill? If political power is not necessary to secure labor-freedom why go to Parliament at all? Why not do in the factory at once? Why, because you know, you feel, you by that very act admit tacitly, that political power is needed to obtain social emancipation. [Loud cheers.] Then I point you to the foundation of political power -- I point you to the suffrage -- I point you to the Charter. [Enthusiastic applause.] ... It may be said: "Why do we not wait till the crisis comes, and the millions rally of their own accord." Because we want not a movement of excitement and danger, but one of calm reason and moral strength. We will not see you led away by excitement, but guided by judgment -- and therefore we bid you now reorganize -- that you may rule the storm, instead of being tossed by it. Again, continental revolution will accompany commercial reaction -- and we need to raise a strong beacon of Chartism to light us through the chaos of tempest. [...] To-day, then, we reinaugurate our movement, and to obtain its official recognition, we go through the medium of Parliament -- not that we expect them to grant the petition -- but because we use them as the most fitting mouth-piece to announce our resurrection to the world. Yes, the very men that proclaimed our death, shall have the unsought pleasure to proclaim our resurrection, and this petition is merely the baptismal register announcing to the world our second birth." [Loud cheers.]

Mr. Hooson's resolution and the petition to Parliament were here, as well as at the subsequent meetings during the week, enthusiastically accepted by acclamation.

At the meeting of Blackstone-Edge, Ernest Jones had announced the death of Benjamin Ruston, a workingman who seven years before, had presided at the great Chartist meeting held at the same spot [5]; and he proposed that his funeral should be made a great political demonstration, and be connected with the West Riding meeting for the adoption of the Charter, as the noblest obsequies to be given to that expired veteran. Never before in the annals of British Democracy, has such a demonstration been witnessed, as that which attended the revival of Chartism in the West Riding, and the funeral of Benjamin Ruston, on Sunday last [June 26, 1853], when upward of 200,000 people were assembled at Halifax, a number unprecedented even in the most excited times. To those who know nothing of English society but its dull, apoplectic surface, it should be recommended to assist at these workingmen's meetings and to look into those depths where its destructive elements are at work.

The Coalition has gained the preliminary battle on the Indian question, Lord Stanley's motion for delay of legislation having been rejected by a majority of 182 votes [In the House of Commons on June 30, 1853]. Pressure of matter obliges me to delay my comments upon that division.

Signed: Karl Marx


BACKGROUND: The title under which the article appeared in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune. The New-York Tribune entitled it "Russian Policy Against Turkey", and under this title the first section of the article, bearing on the Russo-Turkish conflict, was published in The Eastern Question.

In his work on this article and other reports dealing with the history of international relations, Marx made use of materials and documents usually translated into English and published in The Portfolio; or a Collection of State Papers. His excerpts from this source are contained in Notebook XXII.

[1] "Pacification of Greece" -- An expression used in the diplomatic documents of the European powers with reference to their intervention of the Turko-Greek conflict caused by the liberation struggle of the Greek people against Turkish rule in the 1820s.

[2] The London conferences of the representatives of Britain, Russia and France were held in 1827-29 and discussed the Greek question. On July 6, 1827, the three powers signed a Convention which confirmed the Protocol on Greek autonomy signed by Britain and Russia in St. Petersburg on April 4 1826. Both the Protocol and the Convention contained clauses on the diplomatic recognition of Greece as an independent state and armed mediation in the Turko-Greek conflict. On the basis of this Convention the allied fleet was sent into Greek waters and took part in the battle of Navarino. A number of other documents concerning Greece were also signed, including a Protocol of March 22 1829, which established the borders of the Greek state and provided for a monarchical form of government in Greece. However, these agreements and the steps taken by Britain and France, who hoped to settle the conflict through diplomacy, without a defeat for Turkey in the Russo-Turkish was, could not make Turkey change her attitude on the Greek question. It was only after the victory of the Russian army under General Diebich in the 1829 campaign that Turkey agreed to make some concessions.

[3] A reference to Nesselrode's Note (a circular letter of June 11 1853) to Russian diplomats abroad. The Note criticized the Porte's actions and gave ground for presenting a new ultimatum to Turkey demanding that the Russian Tsar be recognized as the protector of the Christian subjects of the Sultan and threatening to resort to "decisive measures" if these demands were rejected. This ultimatum, which Marx calls below and "ultimatissimum", was presented to the Porte on June 16 1853.

[4] A reference to the Executive Committee of the National Charter Association founded in July 1840. The Association was the first mass workers' party in the history of the working-class movement and had up to 50,000 members at the height of the Chartist movement. However, a lack of ideological and tactical unity and a certain looseness in its organization affected its activities. After the defeat of the Chartists in 1848 and the ensuing split in their ranks, the Association lost its mass character. Nevertheless, under the leadership of Ernest Jones and other revolutionary Chartists, it fought for the revival of Chartism on a socialist basis, which found its expression in the programme adopted by the Chartist Convention in 1851. The Association ceased its activities in 1858.

[5] A reference to the Blackstone-Edge meeting organized by the Chartists on August 2 1846. The meeting in which Ernest Jones took part was held on June 19 1853.